Daytona 500: Pontiac Racing notes 2002-02-08



YOU'VE HEARD THE WORD 'BORING' KICKED AROUND WHEN DESCRIBING THE DAYTONA 500 IN 2000...IS THERE ANYTHING BORING ABOUT A RESTRICTOR PLATE RACE FOR A DRIVER? "I don't know. I ran second to Sterling Marling last fall at Charlotte and I was six seconds behind him at the finish, and nine seconds ahead of Ward Burton, who finished third, and I didn't hear one person complain about it being a boring race.

"As long as we're all relatively close together, I don't know how anybody could say that it's boring here. The main thing that we have to worry about is the driver's safety this year. I don't want to see any more of my friends die."

IS THIS NEW AERO PACKAGE HERE DESIGNED TO PUT THE DRIVER BACK INTO THE EQUATION? "I'm not real sure, to be honest. I'm kind of the wrong guy to ask because for 23 years all I've done is drive the car. I've never really worried about the engineering side of it.

"I think NASCAR is trying to do a really good job of making sure that we put on a really good show for the fans, but at the same time, make it so that it is a little less hectic behind the wheel for the drivers."

ELABORATE ON THE PLUSES AND MINUSES OF LAST YEAR'S RESTRICTOR PLATE RULES PACKAGE "It's kind of a 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' scenario. To make it to where you can pass, it makes it to where you have to do things to the cars so that you stay really closed up all day. It looks really fun to the fans, but it's really hectic for the drivers and kind of puts us in a bad situation. But, that is why we're working. I don't think I've ever seen a sanctioning body work harder and I don't think I've ever seen teams and drivers work harder together to try to come up with a formula that is not only safer for us, but at the same time and foremost, is more exciting for the fans."

CAN YOU CARRY YOUR MOMENTUM FROM LAST YEAR INTO THIS YEAR? "We're going to try to. That has been the one thing that we haven't been able to do the last couple years, so that's the one thing we're really focusing on this year."

ON THE WORK AND FINANCIAL EFFORT SPENT FOR THE DAYTONA 500 "We start that before we even finish our last race the year before - getting ready for here. I think that is what makes the '500' what it is. As compared to having this race at the end of the year when all the teams are strung out and almost ready for the season to be over, it gives all the teams an opportunity through the winter to really massage and fine-tune their cars to come here to Daytona to put forth the best effort they can."

WILL THE BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT BE A GOOD INDICATOR OF WHAT WE'LL SEE THE REST OF SPEED WEEKS? "I think it will be a fairly good read on how things are going to be. Obviously, you aren't going to have the same amount of cars that you're going to have for the '500,' but I think it's normally a pretty good read as to how things are going to turn out."

WITH THE LOSS OF DALE EARNHARDT HERE LAST YEAR, DOES THAT MAKE YOUR WIN OVER HIM IN THE SHOOTOUT EVEN MORE SPECIAL? "It was cool the day that I won. Then after we lost Dale it made it even more special. I'd much rather be here to try to duplicate that race again this year with him."


ARE YOU EXCITED TO GET GOING AGAIN? "I'm awfully excited. We came down and tested OK. For this team, the speedway program has been a little bit of a downfall, but we've run good so far at both tests - here and two days worth at Talladega. I feel like we've gotten the car a lot better. I actually feel good about our chances to come down here and race good with this A.J. Foyt Conseco Pontiac.

"I'm really excited about the opportunity to get to work with A.J. It's pretty neat for me because I grew up watching him and admiring him. To go over there (to the shop) and see what they've put together - they basically started when I started. They were a rookie team when I was a rookie. They've grown and I've grown. Last year, if you look, this team ran good a lot of times, but they just never could buy any luck. Ron Hornaday is one of the best race car drivers out there, but they just couldn't get any luck. Hopefully this year we can put some of those good runs together and have some luck to go along with it. We'd like to be a top 25 team."

WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR QUALIFYING ON SATURDAY? "Well, with the rules as they are, I'm not expecting a whole lot. It's a little disappointing because I think the worst that we qualified all last year at plate races was third. I think the worst plate qualifying run I've ever had was 13th, so this is probably going to be a little disappointing because maybe we're not on level playing ground. I think motor-wise we're probably as good as anybody out there, but if we can't run fast because of the bodies or because of the changes that NASCAR has made, it is a little disappointing. But still yet, we're looking forward to racing good. I think we'll race good. But, we don't have the luxury of not worrying about starting up front or not worrying about a qualifying lap. We've got to qualify good. If something happens in those 'twin' races, we're in trouble. We took an extra test at Talladega, which I wish we wouldn't have had to, but we needed to make sure that when we came down here that our Pontiac was going to be in the show and was going to get a good lap. I'm pretty happy with the changes we've made and the progress we've made. I think we've got a good race car for the '500.' Hopefully, we can just get us a good lap on Saturday and be comfortable for the 'Twins,' but, if not, we're going to have to do some serious racing."

-grm racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ward Burton , Sterling Marlin , Ron Hornaday Jr. , A.J. Foyt